Cancer is a condition in which the cells that make up the tissues grow abnormally in an uncontrolled manner. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in women, although lung cancer remains the leading cause of death in both women and men. Interestingly, approximately 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in adult males. Uterine cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women. Both seem to be somehow genetically linked. Breast cancer gene also linked to uterine cancer.
Breast Cancer – Causes
The exact cause of breast cancer is unknown. Feminine hormones and older age play a role in determining breast cancer. Breast cancer is a common disease in women over 50 years of age. The risk of breast cancer in women between 30 and 40 years is about 1 in 250 women, while for women between 40 and 50 years it is 1 to 70.
- The risk of breast cancer increases with age.
- Personal history of breast cancer
- Family history
- Mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
- Changes in breasts
- The advanced age at the birth of the first child
- Diet and lifestyle
Breast Cancer Symptoms
Early breast cancer is often detected by a mammogram before any symptoms have occurred. The most common symptom is the painless breast nodules. However, mammary nodules in breast cancer can also be painful.
Symptoms of breast cancer include:
- A nodule in the breast
- Changing breast in size or shape
- Changing in the skin of the breasts, such as a wrinkles or stains
- Nipple bleeding or leaking that occurs when it is tightened
- Nipple changes such as retraction or inversion
- Scabs at the nipple
- Changes in the color or texture of the skin on the breast or a darker color around the nipples
- A breast nodule in men
The causes of uterine cancer are:
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – Almost all cases of uterine cancer occur in women who have previously been infected with human papilloma virus (HPV). HPV is actually the name of a group of viruses and not a single virus. There are more than 100 different types.
Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia – As a rule, uterine cancer develops in many years. Before the development of cancer, cervical cells often show changes, known as intraepithelial cervical neoplasia (ICN). ICN is a pre-cancerous condition. Pre-cancerous conditions do not involve an immediate health risk, but in the future they can develop into fully advanced cancer. However, most women who have ICN do not develop uterine cancer.
Uterine Cancer – Risk Factors
Known risk factors include:
- Smoking – women who smoke have a twofold risk of uterine cancer compared to non-smokers. This may be due to the harmful effects of tobacco chemicals on uterine and cervical cells.
- The weakened immune system – which may be the result of the use of certain drugs, such as immuno suppressive drugs, that are used to prevent donor organs from being rejected, or as a result of a disease such as HIV/AIDS.
- Using oral contraceptive pills for more than five years – women using such pills are considered to be twice as likely to develop uterine cancer compared to those who do not use such pills.
- Children (the risk is even greater as you have more children) – women who have two children are twice as likely to develop uterine cancer as opposed to women who do not have children at all. The reason for the connection between uterine cancer and birth is unclear. A theory shows that hormonal changes taking place during pregnancy could make the uterus more vulnerable to the effects of HPV.
- Mutations of BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes
Uterine Cancer – Symptoms
Symptoms of uterine cancer are not always obvious and there may be no sign of an alarm until it has reached an advanced stage. For this reason, it is very important to periodically test for the detection of certain potential cancerous lesions and to conduct the tests at least once a year.
Some of the uterine cancer symptoms are:
- Abnormal bleeding – In most cases, vaginal bleeding is the first visible symptom of uterine cancer. Usually it occurs after sexual intercourse
- Pain in or around the vagina during sexual intercourse
- Vaginal secretion with unpleasant odor
- Pain at urination time
In advanced stages of uterine cancer, the cancer can spread to closest organs. In that cases, besides the symptoms from above, there may also be present other symptoms, such as:
- The presence of blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Loss of urinary bladder control (urinary incontinence)
- Bone pain
- Swelling of one of the legs
- Swelling of one or both of the kidneys, which may become deformed following a build up of urine and can cause severe pain in the lateral or back region
- Changes in intestinal and bladder habits
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Fatigue and lack of energy
Breast cancer gene also linked to uterine cancer
As could have been observed on the Risk Factors of both types of cancers, above, mutations at the level of BRCA1 BRCA2 genes may be involved in the development of both breast cancer and uterine cancer.
Dr. Noah Kuff from the Duke Cancer Institute of North Caroline and author of a study in this regard have observed that BRCA 1 and BRCA2 genes mutations occur in women suffering from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, or uterine cancer.
Kuff triggers an alarm signal with his study because he has shown that BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes mutations are most commonly causing uterine serous carcinoma which are very aggressive forms of uterine cancer. Uterine serous carcinoma are involved in 50% of all the deaths caused by uterine cancers, even though only 10% of all the uterine cancers cases of the world are uterine serous cancers.
The study collected the data of more than 1000 women who have been diagnosed with BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes mutations. Every woman in this study opted for a preventive removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes. However, 8 of these women have developed uterine cancer, while other 5 women have developed uterine serous carcinoma.
4 out the 5 women who have developed uterine serous carcinoma have been diagnosed with mutation at the level of the BRCA1 gene.
Therefore, Kuff suggests that doctor who diagnose a woman with BRCA1 mutation should talk with her about the preventive possibility of removing her uterus.
Kuff has also said that the way these BRCA genes mutations work remains a mistery because not all the people affected by these mutations develop cancers, but it is scientifically proven that people with mutations on BRCA genes level are also prone to develop other forms of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer (both men and women), prostate cancer in men, and breast cancer in men (rarely).
Therefore, it has been shown that breast cancer gene also linked to uterine cancer.